Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. 

49 More Bills Admitted for the 2016 Second Regular Session

The Maine State Legislature’s Legislative Council, comprised of members of leadership from both parties, met Thursday in Augusta to hear appeals for bill requests that were rejected in October. Of the roughly 370 bills rejected in October, 147 were considered for appeal, and 49 were admitted, with a few tabled for further consideration. Adding these bills to the 33 admitted at the September meeting and the 151 bills carried over from the First Regular Session, the Legislature will consider 233 bills, with the potential for supplemental budgets and other late-admitted bills, in the Second Regular Session. Notably, yesterday the Council adopted a series of bills aimed at combatting Maine’s drug crisis, an issue the Governor and other policy makers have elevated in recent months.

Ranked Choice Voting Question Set for the November 2016 Ballot

Next November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to move to a ranked-choice voting system. The Maine Secretary of State authenticated more than 70,000 signatures in support of the initiative, which if approved by voters in 2016, would create the nation’s first all ranked-choice ballot system. The ranked-choice voting initiative would allow voters to rank candidates in multi-candidate races in order of preference, triggering an “instant runoff” if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the total vote. If approved, the ranked-choice program would apply to all primary and general elections for the Maine State Legislature, the Governor, and the U.S. House and Senate seats.

Independent to Join the Race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District

Independent Mike Turcotte, an adjunct professor of ethics at Eastern Maine Community College, has stated his intention to announce his run for office for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The seat is currently occupied by Republican Bruce Poliquin, who is serving his first term. Turcotte says his focus will be on improving the 2nd District’s economic vitality. Turcotte will enter the field with Democrats Emily Cain and Joe Baldacci who are both vying for the Democratic nomination.

Maine Electricity Prices to Drop as Governor LePage Again Calls for Canadian Electricity for Maine

The Maine Public Utilities Commission announced this week that starting in January the standard offer for electricity prices in Central Maine Power territory will drop about 3.7% for residential users and an average of 11% for medium sized business customers. In the same week, Governor Paul LePage renewed his appeal to bring more electricity from Eastern Canada down into New England. Speaking at an energy conference in Boston, Governor LePage argued that buying hydro electricity from Canada would significantly lower costs for Mainers.

250 Industry Representatives, Municipal Leaders, Legislators and Others Attend Pulp and Paper Summit in Bangor

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association convened a Summit on the future of Maine’s Pulp and Paper industry in Bangor on Tuesday, November 17th. The Summit, which was attended by 250 industry representatives, mill workers, loggers, municipal leaders, contractors, legislators and others, highlighted the successes, concerns, and opportunities for an industry that remains one of Maine’s largest economic engines. Specifically, the Summit set the stage for policy and industry leaders to work together to solve some of the tough policy challenges facing the industry.

Maine Offshore Wind Project Receives New Funding

The U.S. Department of Energy announced its plans to give $3.7 million in funding for the University of Maine’s offshore wind power project entitled the Maine Aqua Ventus pilot project. According to media reports, Habib Dagher, Director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, has stated that the project has now secured the funding needed to complete its project planning, negotiate supply contracts and continue to make improvements to the floating platform’s design. The funding also ensures that Maine is able to compete for $40 million in funding under the Department of Energy’s federal Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Project, for the installation of six deep water wind turbines off Monhegan Island.